Jeffrey Richardson Brackett: Pioneer Social Worker
Editor’s Note: This biography was taken from the Jeffery Richardson Brackett papers filed in the Simmons College Archives. The photos and internal links were added by the editor.
Early Years: Jeffrey Richardson Brackett, pioneer in the field of charity and social work, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts to Jeffrey Richardson and Sarah Cordelia Richardson Brackett on October 20, 1860. Brackett attended Adams Academy in Quincy and graduated from Harvard University in 1883. After studying and travelling in Europe the year following his graduation, he resumed his studies at Johns Hopkins University where he received the Ph.D. in 1889 for work in history. His doctoral thesis, “The Negro in Maryland: A Study of the Institution of Slavery” was published as a book in 1889. (1)
Early Career: Brackett remained at Johns Hopkins as a lecturer in philanthropic and social work. During his years in Baltimore, Brackett was involved with many charitable and philanthropic organizations in this city as well as other national organizations. In 1893, he was named Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Central Relief Commission. In 1895, he helped found the Instructive Visiting Nurse Association (IVNA) of Baltimore City. (2) He remained with the IVNA until 1904.(3) In 1897, he wrote of the “Care of Certain of the City Poor” and was appointed to the Board of Supervisors of City Charities of Baltimore. He was a member of the Board of Charity Organization Society of Baltimore for twenty-one years, a member of the Henry Watson Children’s Aid Society, Baltimore, and served as a member of the committee for the pioneer summer training course under the New York Charity Organization in 1898. (4) He was a member of the Advisory Committee of the New York School of Social Work, where he had lectured since its early days, until 1939. Brackett was a Trustee of the Poor of the City of Baltimore from 1896 unitl 1898. In 1900, he became the first president of the Board of Supervisors of City Charities, a position he held unitl 1904.(5) In 1903, Brackett’s second book, “Supervision and Education in Charities,” was published. In 1904, he was named President of the National Conference of Charities and Correction and was instrumental in getting its name changed to the National Conference of Social Work in 1917.
Later Career: In 1904, Bracket was called upon by the presidents of Harvard University and Simmons College to head the Boston School for Social Workers (later the Simmons College School of Social Work), the first academically affiliated school of social work in the United States.(6) He was named Instructor in Charity, Public Aid, and Corrections at Harvard and Professor of Theory and Practice of Philanthropic Work at Simmons College.(7) In 1913, he was named Instructor of Social Ethics at Harvard and Professor of Social Economy at Simmons.(8) The school was run cooperatively between the two schools until 1916 when Harvard resigned from the arrangement. Bracket remained the director until 1919.
During his time in Boston, from 1906 until 1935, Brackett was a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Charities. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the Department of Public Welfare of Massachusetts from 1906 unitl 1937, serving as chairman from 1919 until 1937. He organized the Massachusetts Conference of Social Work and was a member of the Boston Associated Charities and the Massachusetts Civic League.(9) In 1909, he was elected incorporator of the National American Red Cross.(10) In the same year, with Ida Cannon, Brackett was instrumental in the formation of the Department of Social Services at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1910 he was named chairman of the Committee on Education in the Department and in 1912, he assisted with the obtainment of a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation for a program in the training of medical social workers.(11) He remained in this position until 1930.(12)
After his resignation from Simmons College, Brackett spent many years giving service to charitable organizations in Quincy, Massachusetts. He was closely associated with the Quincy Women’s Club and the Quincy Associated Charities (later the Quincy Family Society) and served as Director of the Family Service Society from 1921 to 1933. In 1943 he was elected their first honorary president.(13) IN 1926, he was named an honorary member of the American Association of Medical Social Workers.
In addition, Brackett was active with the church. He served as vestryman (1924-1935) and clerk (1927-1935) for Trinity Church in Boston and in 1920 was named to the Social Service Commission of the Diocese where he remained for 13 years. As President of the Trinity Club, Brackett was also responsible for editing and compiling a bicentennial history of the church in 1933.(14)
Brackett married Susan Katharine Jones in 1886. She and Brackett spent their winters in Baltimore and later in Boston and their summers on Job’s Island in Dark Harbor, Maine where Brackett had built a house named Pentagoet. They discontinued their visits to the island in 1911 due to Mrs. Brackett’s ill health and began visiting Peterborough, New Hampshire as their summer home in 1913. Mrs. Brackett died in 1931. In 1935, Brackett married Louisa de Berniere Bacot of Charleston, South Carolina. The Bracketts then moved to Richmond, Virginia where Louisa Brackett was headmistress of St. Catherine’s School. Brackett gave weekly services in the chapel and taught a religious education course. He remained in Richmond for his winters and continued to spend his summers in Peterborough. Brackett died on December 4, 1949 at the age of 89. (15)
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Favreau, B. (2012). Jeffrey Richardson Brackett: Pinoneer social worker and educator. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/social-work/brackett-jeffery-richardson-1860-1949-pioneer-social-worker/